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Old 09-17-2013, 02:37 PM
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Marcus Marcus is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Portland, OR
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Default Semantics / Language is Fluid


Discussion boards on the internet are a great place to vet out ideas, challenge thought processes, learn from our fellow man, and a great place to become infuriated with the entire species.

On boards like this, communication is put to the test in every post because we are at a severe disadvantage. All we have to go on is what is actually written and how we filter the information on our end. Often times the message intended is not the message received, as LR put it "this miscommunication thing just IS". We don't have the benefit of personal context, expression, posture, tone of voice... all we have are these little black letters sitting on a white screen.

That being said, many of these topics seem to be halted by the same catch phrases: "just a semantic argument" and "language is fluid".

SEMANTICS, to put it simply, can be defined as "what words mean". It is apparently a bit more complex if you are well versed in that particular field of linguistics, but for us laymen that is the gist. So, to say that we are "just having a semantic argument" would seem to mean that "we are just discussing the nuances of different, yet correct, ways of using a word". Some words have a number of correct ways they can be used: "respect", "committed", and "love" for example. These words are fertile ground for misunderstanding simply because there are so many correct ways to use them... for the most part these broad category words should probably be avoided when possible, simply to keep a semantic argument from coming up.

Again, note that a semantic discussion is centered around multiple correct uses of a word. What many people on these forums seem to mean by "it's just semantics" is "I don't want to use the word for what it actually means. I will continue to use it incorrectly".

LANGUAGE FLUIDITY, is referring to the tendency of cultures to shift what is viewed as correct usage of words and sentence structure over time. Over time (sometimes over centuries, generations, or rarely within a few years) cultures can so consistently misuse or clarify the use of words and sentence structure to such a degree that the "accepted" rules actually change. Over time we have ended up with some really silly language shifts, but we have also ended up with more refined and concise language shifts (though I expect this is rare). With the more broad use terms as mentioned above this has a much higher chance of happening over time, I suspect, because there is more room for interpretation.

What language fluidity does NOT mean is that definitions and sentence structure have no meaning. It does NOT mean that words mean whatever we want them to because it is "fluid". Insisting on using words incorrectly is simply willful ignorance.

We live in the information age. I can tell you what the GDP of Nepal was in 2001 by simply doing a quick search. Information is so readily available that the idea of disagreeing on what "interfere" means is asinine and is in no way related to "language fluidity"... look it up.

Any of my fellow posters who have experience in linguistics and have something to add or disagree with, please feel free to do so. I actually find language to be pretty fascinating.
Me: male, 43, straight, non-hierarchical, independent
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